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The local area guide to living in Swindon
Swindon lies in Wiltshire, midway between Reading and Bristol, set amongst the chalk hills of the beautiful Wiltshire Downs which were quarried for many centuries for local Portland and Purbeck Stone. Swindon was an important centre during the Industrial revolution when the arrival of the canal network propelled its growth providing big boost in trade to the area.
The still picturesque town centre began life as a small village constructed during the 1800s by Great Western Railway for workers at the growing Swindon Works locomotive repair depot. Nowadays the pleasant streets, alleys and courtyards are home to a variety of modern and traditional shops, pubs and restaurants, as well as a great selection of markets.
Though it’s a fairly large town, Swindon is within a beautiful rural setting and is just a stone’s throw away from many areas of outstanding natural beauty such as the Chilterns, the Cotswolds and the Wessex Downs. The town has a vibrant arts scene and has plenty of culture to offer in the shape of several festivals dedicated to music and literature, and also boasts the Swindon Mela, which celebrates the culture and art of South India and attracts tens of thousands of people from across the world.
Information about the local residents
Swindon is a town that won’t stop growing. At the last census the population was around 210,000, but that amount is expected to grow to more than a quarter of a million by 2026. The town is home to people of many nationalities, with around 5% of the population being of Polish origin.
Swindon’s main industry used to be the railway works and their closure in the ‘80s was a huge blow to the town. However, the town has recovered and now has large employment sectors in retail, wholesale and manufacturing. Administration, finance, business support, science, and information and communications are other key industries.
There are plenty of schools to choose from in Swindon, with 53 primary schools and 11 secondary schools being located in the area. The secondary schools offer a broad range of specialisms, including science, maths, business, the arts and technology. There isn’t a private school in the town, but the nearby Marlborough College offers private education.
Further education for 16 to 21 year olds is catered for by New College and Swindon College. The latter is one of the biggest of its kind in the area and boasts its own purpose built campus. Oxford Brookes University and the University of Bath both have campuses in the town.
Apart from its importance in the world of railways, Swindon’s other great contribution to transport is an infamous stretch of road called ‘The Magic Roundabout’, a large complicated cluster of traffic islands and busy junctions. Swindon offers easy access to the M4 via the A36 and the A4 and is also within easy reach of London via the M3.
Most of the town centre is pedestrianised, meaning it’s easy to get around on foot, but there are also good bus services in the town centre and out to surrounding areas. There are great rail links: London Waterloo and London Paddington can be reached within about an hour and there are services to the west including Bristol, Bath, Chippenham and Cardiff.
For international travel there are plenty of options, with Bristol, Cardiff, Heathrow and Gatwick being easily accessible.
Swindon is one of the best towns in Wiltshire for shopping, boasting a great mix of national outlets and local, independent shops. For popular high street brands and department stores, shoppers should head for The Parade, whilst The Brunel has a plethora of boutique shops and restaurants, alongside more recognisable names. The Swindon Tented Market is a popular feature of the town centre, offering an extensive range of goods and many smaller, specialist shops are located at Cheney Manor Industrial Park and Basepoint Business Centre.
Aside from the shops, Swindon has a lively nightlife, with plenty of traditional pubs, nightclub and bars, and an excellent selection of international cuisines including Brazilian, American, Italian, Indian, Chinese and English food.
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